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Press Release of November 30, 1999

On December 1, 1999 the Bank of Latvia has issued a new silver button-shaped collector coin within the international coin programme Millennium. The coin was struck as part of the international unique coin programme organised by the British Royal Mint.

Uniqueness of the coin

 

The British Royal Mint invited 24 countries participating in the programme to make unusual coins that would be unique for the respective country in terms of their theme, form or face value. Numismatists both in Latvia and abroad will no doubt regard this coin as remarkable.

It is not, however, just the shape of the coin that makes it unique in the history of Latvian money: its conception was also unprecedented. As part of preparing for the programme, the Bank of Latvia organised a brainstorming of ideas, a competition that was open to anyone willing to contribute to the development of Latvian money. Our hopes that this competition would become a nationwide event were more than satisfied as people from most every region of Latvia contributed their ideas.. By the set deadline, the Bank of Latvia had received drawings, sketches or descriptions from 175 people, with some of them submitting two, three or even more proposals. The winning idea by Maija Barzdina, a mathematics teacher at Taurene Elementary School to make a button-shaped coin has already been successfully implemented.

Authors of the coin

The winning idea for the coin design was executed by the artist Gunars Cilitis and the sculptor Janis Strupulis.
Ms. Barzdina's idea was given graphic form by Mr. Cilitis whose proficiency in coin design was clearly demonstrated with the series Riga - 800, which consists of eight collector coins. It is interesting to note that Cilitis had submitted a similar idea to another coin-related competition.

Number of coins

 

The value of collector coins tends to increase with time, in part because they tend to be issued in small numbers. The maximum number of the Millennium coins in Latvia will be 5000. The British Royal Mint, the organiser of the programme, will distribute this coin outside Latvia, and the number of coins thus distributed will not exceed 30 000.

Why the denomination of 1 lats

Collector coins are often purchased for a price that may significantly exceed their face value. For example, the British 5-pounds gold millennium coin can be ordered from the Mint for more than 500 pounds. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Republic of Lithuania, the Bank of Lithuania issued a 1 lits coin whose price was 500 lits, yet all 1000 coins sold out within hours. These are but a few instances of this phenomenon. The distinction between commemorative and circulation coins lies in both the way they are produced and their use. Collector coins are designed to serve as a means of payment, yet they are purchased mainly for their artistic value, as gifts or collector's items. The value of collector coins is determined by the following factors:
- content of the precious metal;
- artistic contribution;
- particularly fine and careful mintage;
- expected value of the coin as a collection item.
The face value is of a secondary importanceand is usually less than their purchase price. Moreover, the denomination chosen may reflect purely artistic concerns, i.e., how the figure fits into the overall composition of the coin. The number "1" (lits, dollar, mark etc.) is often featured on the obverse or reverse of "fancy" coins. The Bank of Latvia also plans to issue a series of collector coins with a face value of 1 lats, and the Millennium coin will be the first to start this series. The purchase prices of these coins will vary depending on their precious metal content, weight etc.

How to obtain this coin

 

As promised, the Bank of Latvia has issued this coin before the end of this year, so that it can be used as a valuable and meaningful gift during the holiday season.

Collector coin are distributed by the British Royal Mint (7, Grosvenor Gardens, London, SW1W OBH, United Kingdom; phone: +44 1443 62 33 22; fax: +44 1443 62 33 30; e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

You can also purchase this and other Bank of Latvia collector coins during the business hours of the Bank of Latvia's cashier's office. This coin will also be on sale at commercial banks and souvenir and jewellery shops. The coin is available at the Bank of Latvia for LVL 19.00.

Why collector coins are important for Latvia

The "millennium button"- is unique both among Latvian and world coins. Yet the series of eight coins dedicated to the people and events that have decisively shaped the 800-year history of the City of Riga, is also unparalleled. Riga is perhaps the only city in the world to have collector coins struck in its honour. The series won recognition at the largest world coin exhibition in Basle. The gold 10-lats coin featuring the gaff-sail schooner Julia Maria is even smaller than the one-santims coin and is among the world's smallest. The results of last year's readers' poll at Deutsches Muenzenmagazin, Germany's largest numismatic magazine, placed it among the fifteen most beautiful coins in the world. The Bank of Latvia plans to organize and participate in other coin programmes, thus introducing Latvia to the worldthrough the medium of coins. Thousands of people have purchased Latvian collector coins abroad learning about events and people important to the history of Riga and Latvia, about our outstanding sportsmen, natural resources and seafaring traditions. They have likewise found out that Latvia has artists it can be proud of. Last but not least, they now know that Latvia's currency is lats.

Both governmental and non-governmental organisations often choose our collector coins as presents for their foreign guests or their hosts abroad.

The idea of the button-shaped coin may even have certain linguistic roots in the Latvian language. In ancient Latvian the word "poga" (button) meant both a button and a small bell, and the same root is also found in the Latvian word meaning "to warble". This button-shaped coin may well serve as a bell announcing the turn of the millennium.